Garry Wills’s most recent book is What the Qur’an Meant: And Why It Matters. (November 2019)


Our Moloch

The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence.


The City That Wouldn’t Die

Musicians in the Original Four Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s annual second line brass band parade, New Orleans, October 2018

City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300

by Jason Berry
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, devastating an area seven times the size of Manhattan, flooding 80 percent of the city, ruining buildings, forcing a million people to flee, and stranding millions more in misery. Many of us remember this as a great failure of George W. Bush’s administration …

The Art of the Schmooze

Studs Terkel, 2004; photographs by Nancy Crampton
Studs Terkel, who died in 2008, is best remembered, if at all, by Americans at large for his popular and prize-winning books of oral history—nine of them, from Division Street (1967) to Hope Dies Last (2003). But we Chicagoans remember him more vividly for his large presence in our city over the last half of the twentieth century.

A Wild and Indecent Book

Max Ernst: The Virgin Chastising the Christ Child Before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter, 1926

The New Testament: A Translation

by David Bentley Hart
It was subtle of God to learn Greek when he wished to become an author, and not to learn it better. —Friedrich Nietzsche on the New Testament At last a man comes riding to the rescue of the English Bible. Condemning earlier translations of the New Testament, David Bentley Hart …

Big Rocket Man

Donald Trump
Donald Trump has threatened “Little Rocket Man” with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”—not even seen, presumably, at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. We possess, after all, many more and much better (that is, much worse) explosives than were used by President Truman in 1945, when he incinerated those cities without Congress or the American people knowing we even had them. The fact that President Trump (“old lunatic”) has a legally absolute power to destroy Kim Jong-un (“short and fat”) over dueling insults is so scary that Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu are trying to restrict that absolute power, so that only Congress would have the authority to declare nuclear war. This seems not only reasonable but constitutionally necessary. The Constitution in fact denies the president the power to declare war and reserves it solely to Congress. More than that, the framers clearly opposed the massing of power in the executive—lest it become the monarchy they had opposed with a revolution.


The Rights of Guns

El Paso residents protesting the visit of President Donald Trump after the Walmart mass shooting that left twenty-two people dead, Texas, August 7, 2019

“Gun rights,” as used by devotees of an absolutist Second Amendment, means their right to own guns. But in America today, it has come to mean more: the rights of guns. Guns themselves possess more rights than persons do. Guns’ exemption from common-sense legislation guarantees them not only rights, but also rites. Guns are sacred objects. They are more than things, more even than persons. They are an unstoppable force, a god.

Resistance Means More Than Voting

The purse of an attendee at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally addressed by President Barack Obama, Anaheim, California, September 8, 2018

How long must the list of Trump’s anti-democratic outrages grow before we hope that resistance be mounted openly, secretly, immediately, effectively? President Obama says we must wait until we can vote. After all, in a matter of weeks, we may vote in a House of Representatives that may impeach the president. But it is doubtful that we will elect a Senate that can convict the president. Vote, of course. But there is no reason to think that voting is the sole allowable form of resistance. What if the laws are not only unjust but framed and upheld by measures that baffle democratic correction?

The Priesthood of The Big Crazy

Survivors and activists of Ending Clergy Abuse, a new international organization against the child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Geneva, Switzerland, June 7, 2018

Priests are set apart, by celibacy, by sacramental powers. They are privileged, and they do not want to give up such influence. When dangers to their status come up, they must mute or minimize the dangers. Many victims of abuse by priests have made the mistake of reporting their charges to a bishop. They should have gone straight to a secular authority. To expect from the celibate clergy either candor or good sense on sexual matters is a fool’s game. The laity should reclaim its centrality in the church.



The script, written by the film’s director Tom McCarthy and the academic- and-showbiz marvel Josh Singer, is amazing in its mastery of the complex material, since many strands converged for the paper to break the hold of the hierarchy over the city.